Can you believe this season of The Americans is almost over? After tonight, only 3 episodes remain. “Darkroom” may not have pushed the season as close to its climax as some hoped, but it remained at the same high quality I’ve come to expect of The Americans. It also had one of the sweetest scenes you’ll ever see from a show typically sparse with them.
I will admit to hoping next week pushes us closer to the season’s climax than this one did, but in the process we got a bit of movement and some great scenes.
Spoilers for 4×10 “Darkroom” below
We open this week with Philip in his Eckert disguise and sharing homebrew with Pasha’s father. They talk about their families, and Morozov reveals Pasha has become highly depressed. He also talks about missing Moscow just like his family does. Meanwhile Tuan comes home and apologizes again for his actions last episode. Elizabeth tells him he has a lot of talent, and while this life won’t get easier, she thinks he can become a great spy. She also says they didn’t report him to their superiors.
“Mr. Eckert” comes home and tells them about Pasha doing worse. Tuan describes telling a mean kid at school to put dog crap in Pasha’s locker. When Philip and Elizabeth return home, they find Paige cleaning in the kitchen and clearly upset. She tells them she read in Pastor Tim’s diary that he thinks she’s “really messed up”. Paige worries that he is right despite her parents’ attempted comfort.
Elizabeth refuses the idea of keeping secrets from Paige, saying that they only protected her and told her the truth when she was ready to hear it.
Elizabeth is still angry about the pastor at the travel agency the next day. She thinks Paige can get over this, but Philip doesn’t. Good job dividing them on this, Gabriel. Over in Moscow, Oleg and a partner stake out the woman their prisoner told them about. Her poor living conditions make them question the information. Oleg also tells his partner about Directorate K searching his room. They discuss the reasoning and potential trouble for Oleg.
Stan and Aderholt meet with another treasonous Russian, the woman working at TASS. The FBI rented an apartment in her building in order to hold their meetings. The woman had her teeth fixed at the dentist and talks about a famous Russian hockey player she has grown close to. This hockey player brings packages from the Soviet Union.
Philip and Elizabeth bring Claudia the tape from Kimmy’s father and express their concern about the hemorrhagic fever used in Afghanistan. They also ask her about the potential of setting up a job offer for Pastor Tim which will take him from Paige. Claudia tells them the wheat they stole was of a Soviet variety, and it will take years to analyze, so they will need to work their Kansas contacts long term.
When they get home, Philip and Elizabeth talk to Paige about the job offer possibility. Paige doesn’t answer, and instead asks about the wheat. They hide the truth about America not poisoning it and Paige expresses admiration. After they leave the room, Elizabeth tells Philip when she’ll be leaving for Kansas again. Expectedly, he pouts about it.
Following a silent and tense dinner scene with Oleg and his parents, “Mrs. Eckert” has tea with Pasha’s mother. She tells Elizabeth about the dog poop and how unhappy Pasha is. Elizabeth tries to comfort her, and Evgehniya confesses to her affair and guilt. Elizabeth pushes her to fight for her family’s happiness.
The Jennings’s active social life continues on a double dinner date with Stan and Renee. Philip still worries about Renee, and when Elizabeth wonders why he cares so much he tells her he doesn’t want Stan to end up like Martha. Later, Philip remembers an EST meeting while making a dead drop on a jog. At home, he finds Paige on the couch. He tries again to make her feel better about what Pastor Tim wrote. Paige in turn argues for letting Henry go to his school.
Philip’s dead drop is brought to Tatyana at the KGB embassy. Yay Tatyana!
Later, Paige volunteers at the food bank with Pastor Tim. He tells her she’s doing much better since she confessed to him about her parents, and to hold onto her faith. He also says she’ll do great in life. Over at the FBI, Stan attends a meeting about how to crack diplomatic pouches the Soviets smuggle.
Ready to squee? Because Philip surprises Elizabeth by bringing her to a warehouse where the Russian priest he met last week awaits them. They hold an official wedding ceremony and receive new wedding rings. They go home and hide these rings in their secret compartment in the garage. A less happy wife, Evgehniya, is approached by Tatyana and told there will be no negative repercussions if she wants to return to the Soviet Union.
And finally, Paige returns home with pictures of entries in Pastor Tim’s diary. She decides she wants them to arrange the job offer. Philip and Elizabeth show her the dark room setup in the garage and develop her pictures. They read entries about how awful Philip and Elizabeth are as parents as the episode ends.
Good job, Elizabeth and Philip. Somehow, some way, they are gradually turning Paige into one of them. They have spent multiple seasons looking for a way to turn her against Pastor Tim. Some coercive, some forceful, and always unsuccessful. In the end it was Pastor Tim himself who turned her against him.
No matter how right his diary entries were, they have now turned Paige against him. And they were mostly right. The comparisons to sexual abuse were certainly too far, but Paige is not in a good place and we see so episode after episode.
Despite her confession, Paige has always cared about her family. Where Henry has detached, Paige has only increasingly involved herself in her parents’ life. She is very much her father’s daughter in this and many other regards. Philip and Paige both struggle deeply with the secrets they keep. They both wish they had different lives without those secrets. At the end of the day, though, they love their family and prioritize them above everything else.
So when Paige found that diary attacking her and her parents, of course her reaction was to protect them.
Philip is in very much the same place as his daughter. These past two seasons have irrevocably shaken his belief in his profession. When he says he doesn’t want Stan to end up like Martha, it carries the implication that he no longer has the conviction to do that to anyone else. We’ve seen this in his failures with Deidre this season. His breaking point rapidly approaches.
Yet in this episode he happily reaffirmed his commitment to Elizabeth and the life they live.
(Which, by the way, that wedding scene was lovely. It was beautifully executed and timed perfectly. The timing was also quite intentional, with Philip seeking a confirmation of their love right after Claudia made clear he and Elizabeth face years romantically working targets. Yes, Philip’s insecurity was a deciding factor in making this gesture but Elizabeth clearly appreciated it.)
This dichotomy Philip and Paige share which will almost certainly lead to a schism within the Jennings family. They cannot both resent the secrets and the spying while also remaining fully committed to their family. At some point one or the other will have to win out. It’s possible they don’t even go in the same direction. Paige may remain loyal to Elizabeth while Philip has to leave, or vice versa.
Or maybe Elizabeth reaches her own breaking point and wants to leave the spy game? Hey, a guy can dream. I just want the Jenningses to be happy.
The Americans continues to march through these moments and towards new ones deciding the futures of its characters. Stan is deeply involved with Renee, the Jennings family continues to hit new crisis after new crisis, Pastor Tim will soon get his job offer, Pasha’s family will make their decisions on remaining in America, and so on.
The Americans also continues to march quite slowly through these points. I’ve already expressed my opinion on this season’s pacing. The character work has been outstanding and this show’s track record deserves the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, I understand this episode did nothing to change minds on season 5. If you loved this season, you liked this episode. If you’re frustrated with the pace, you’ll be frustrated again.
Dozens of dominoes have been established by this point, and this episode added yet another with Pastor Tim. You have Pasha’s family, Tuan, Stan’s FBI work, Oleg’s investigation, Oleg and the CIA, Renee, the resistant wheat, Topeka, Philip’s disillusionment, Paige, the hemorrhagic fever…I’m probably even forgetting things. It’s a lot going on at once, and too much to possibly resolve in 3 more episodes.
Surely some of this will move into the final season. In fact, as we approach season 5’s end it is likely most of these plots were meant to transfer over into season 5, and may not come up again this season. If so, there will be many upset about this season as a whole, even if season 5 delivers perfectly. Some fans will always look at season 5 as a bit of a waste.
We’ll see how it all turns out. Because there’s certainly a lot of balls juggled in the air right now and their fall is inevitable.
- Morozov’s praise for America always struck me as overeager, as if he wanted to convince himself. I’m not surprised to hear he misses Moscow.
- Philip is clearly not on board with the Pasha plan.
- I love that Philip and Elizabeth talked to Paige and wanted her go-ahead before moving on the Pastor Tim job offer.
- Renee is “going home next week.” Hmm. Sounds a lot like a pair of spies we know and their Kansas work, right? I’m still on the “Renee works for someone” train.
- Philip’s EST meeting about humans being machines, and enlightenment being the realization of such was so depressing. I wonder how that lecture influenced his decision to hold the marriage ceremony.
- Speaking of new plots thrown in the mix; add the TASS woman’s hockey boyfriend, his smuggled packages, and the meeting about how to crack them into the mix.
- Remember Paige snooping around the basement before? The darkroom reveal sure gave her reason to do so again.
Images Courtesy of FX